Woods / Lacquers

Various different woods are used in the construction of guitars. Fender often use alder for the bodies of their guitars. These woods are light and are great for clean sounds. Ash is also used by Fender. There are two types of this wood. Hard ash is used for its sustaining qualities and bright sounds. Soft ash is also known as swamp ash has a warmer sound.

Gibson and PRS usually use mahogany often with maple tops on their guitars. Mahogany guitars are dark in sound and the use of maple tops can brighten the sound as well as enhance the look of the guitar. Companies that produce a wide range of rock orientated guitars such as Ibanez, Jackson and Charvel often use basswood. This wood is light and produces a warm tone.

This Gibson Les Paul studio, like other Les Paul’s has a mahogany body with a maple top. The grain of the wood can be seen clearly. The guitar is hand finished in nitrocellulose with the last coat being hand flattened by hand to give the guitar a satin texture

The Telecaster shown here has an ash body. Fenders also use alder on their guitars. These woods produce a lighter sound than Mahogany which creates a more heavier and deeper sound

The PRS shown below has a Mahogany body. These two pieces of maple glued to the top of the guitars mahogany body is called a ‘maple top’. Maple is used due to its attractive flame or quilted look. You can see the attractive appearance of the ‘top’ on this guitar. PRS refer to their better quality maple tops as ’10 Tops’ their artist pack and private stock are even more luxurious. The use of a maple top can also brighten the tone of otherwise darker sounding mahogany bodied guitars


As already mentioned many different woods are used in the construction of guitars. There are also various lacquers used to finish of the construction of a guitar. The lacquers job is to protect the finish and adds to the overall look of the guitar. There have been various lacquers used since the 1950’s. An often used lacquer is Nitrocellulose which has been used by many guitar manufacturers including Gibson and Fender. Fender used nitrocellulose (often abbreviated to ‘nitro’) in their first guitars in the 1950’s and 1960’s and is the lacquer Gibson often use for their guitars. One drawback of ‘nitro’ is that it is prone to crack and turn yellow over time. Hairline cracks are also common due to changes in temperature or just over time. However these things are the main appeal so some people who prefer the look of aged instruments over the look of a pristine instruments. Another common lacquer is Polyurethane. This lacquer is often called urethane and is very versatile. There are different variants of urethane such as gloss urethane and satin urethane (often used on necks). This lacquer offers a more even and glossier finish by only using two layers of urethane rather than the multiple coats that is used by nitro. Fender American standard and Deluxe guitars along with Gibson, PRS and Jackson guitars use polyurethane. A third lacquer is Polyester. This lacquer has sometimes been used by Fender since the 1970’s. Polyester is often used by companies including Ibanez, Polyester ages well, is very durable and adds very good protection to a guitar being difficult to scratch and damage.